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Shelley Hicks, MA

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Shelley L. Hicks, Director of Education, retired from the American Academy of Physician Assistants in February 2019 after serving 40 years focusing on education and continuing education. She is the longest serving staff member in the history of the AAPA.

Born in Danville, Illinois in 1951, she lived with her parents and three sisters internationally (Okinawa, Japan and the Panama Canal Zone) and stateside (Illinois, California, Georgia, Virginia and New York). She graduated from Virginia Tech (B.S., Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, 1973) and George Washington University (M.A., Education and Human Development, 1983).

As a new college graduate, Ms. Hicks taught health and PE and coached softball and cheerleading in a Northern Virginia parochial elementary/middle school. She loved teaching and coaching but after five years decided to go into association education administration.

In 1978, AAPA hired Ms. Hicks as a temporary CME and Membership Administrator. She logged “by hand” paper CME forms submitted by PAs logging their CME for NCCPA certification (when there were five categories of CME!) before computers and sophisticated software programs. She made thousands of membership address changes (on punch cards) before there were membership databases. In 1979, Donald W. Fisher, the first AAPA Executive Director, and Jim Bartow, the first AAPA Convention Manager, recognized Shelley’s “can do” spirit and organizational skills and hired her as a permanent employee working in conference planning and continuing education. She was excited to be a part of the development of a new profession that had its first graduates only 11 years earlier.

Here is a sampling of Ms. Hicks’s accomplishments during her 40-year AAPA career:

Annual PA Conference

  • Developed and managed the goals, procedures and achievements of 41 groups of PA volunteers who were members of the conference and CME leadership groups – the Conference Planning Committee; Conference Education Planning Committee; Education Council; and Commission on Continuing Professional Development and Education
  • Established a panel of external conference submission evaluators to advise the Commission on Continuing Professional Development and Education
  • Increased the number of CME programs offered during conference from 32 CME hours in 1979 to a high of 421 CME hours in 2009
  • Initiated the inclusion of satellite symposia, funded by the biopharmaceutical industry starting with 4 CME hours in 1987 and peaking at 70 CME hours in 2003
  • Oversaw the development and incorporation of the official speaker contract process and the recruitment and training of volunteer moderators for speaker introductions


  • Specialty workshop offerings
  • Speak Like a Pro (public speaking training for PA presentations)
  • Meet the Experts (case-based, small group interactive programming with PAs recognized as experts in their respective specialties)
  • Multiple-hour blocks of programming – Uniformed Services Symposium, Indian Health Services Symposium, Primary Care Geriatrics Symposium, PAs in Hospice and Palliative Medicine Symposium, Obesity Leadership Edge, Fundamentals of Addiction Medicine
  • Instituted and administered the changes technology brought to the conference planning process:
    • Took the capture of conference programming from audio cassette tapes (Category 2) to CDs (Category 1) to online (Category 1)
    • Replaced in-room slide projectors with presentation management, electronic server management and advance submission of speaker presentations
    • Adapted audience response technology into conference programming
    • Converted paper conference submissions to electronic submissions

Continuing Education

  • Worked with NCCPA and AAPA education committees to convert five CME categories to two categories
  • Managed the CME accreditation process
    Participated in the establishment of Pathway II, an alternative recertification process in the 1980s
  • Solicited CME grants from pharmaceutical corporations
  • Managed and advised the first Healthcare Industry Advisory Council (biopharmaceutical corporation advisory board)
  • Participated in management of the Clinical Case Challenge Series programs (formerly Chapter Lecture Series)

Between 1979 and 2019, Ms. Hicks worked with all seven AAPA Executive Vice Presidents to further the educational needs of PAs. She worked in four of the five AAPA headquarters offices in Crystal City, Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia making many lifelong friends among PAs and fellow AAPA staff professionals. She led and educated thousands of PAs, addressing the AAPA mission that includes empowering its members “to advance their careers and enhance patient health.”

Acknowledgments:  This biography was written by Marilyn H. Fitzgerald, Honorary PA, with assistance from Maryann Ramos, MPH, PA-C Emeritus, and was submitted to the Society in January 2019.

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